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In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing and search engine optimization, staying abreast of the latest trends and updates is crucial for businesses looking to enhance their online visibility. One such development that has garnered significant attention is Google’s affirmation of “openness” as a key ranking factor for local businesses. This shift underscores the importance of accurately listing business hours within local search results and highlights the impact it can have on a business’s online presence.
Google’s emphasis on “openness” as a ranking factor was brought to the forefront following the November 2023 core update, which signaled a notable increase in the significance placed on a business’s listed hours of operation. This update marked a pivotal moment in local search optimization, as Google Search Liaison confirmed that “openness” has long been a part of their local ranking systems but has now been given greater weight, particularly for non-navigational queries.
Google’s Search Liaison responded to the discussions, confirming that “openness” has become a stronger signal for local search. The team mentioned that openness has been a part of local ranking systems for a while and has recently gained more significance, especially for non-navigational queries. However, they emphasized that this could evolve as they continue evaluating its usefulness.
It’s important to note that this signal applies primarily to non-navigational queries. For instance, if someone is searching for a specific business name, it is considered navigational. On the other hand, searching for a general topic is non-navigational.
During discussions, concerns were raised about businesses falsely listing 24/7 operating hours to boost local search visibility. Google addressed these concerns, warning against manipulating business hours, as the ranking signal for openness is subject to ongoing adjustments. Manipulating hours could result in a suspension email from Google.
Google also advised local businesses to keep their operational hours up-to-date on Google Business Profiles, especially during the holiday season. This practice can positively impact local search visibility and ensure a smoother experience for customers during the final shopping days of the season.
For businesses, maintaining accurate hours could lead to higher visibility in local pack rankings, potentially attracting more customers, especially if competitors are closed.
Non-navigational queries refer to searches where users are seeking specific services or products without specifying a particular business by name. In such instances, having accurate and up-to-date business hours can significantly impact a business’s visibility in local search results. By ensuring that this information is readily available and correctly listed, businesses can improve their chances of being discovered by potential customers searching for relevant services or products in their area.
It is important to note that while optimizing business hours can positively influence local search rankings, Google has cautioned against attempting to manipulate this information for the sole purpose of improving visibility. Such practices are closely monitored by Google’s algorithms and are subject to ongoing adjustments. Engaging in manipulative tactics could result in penalties that may harm a business’s online reputation and visibility.
In conclusion, the affirmation of “openness” as a key ranking factor by Google underscores the importance of providing accurate and transparent information about business hours within local search results. By prioritizing this aspect of their online presence, businesses can enhance their visibility, attract more customers, and ultimately improve their overall digital marketing strategy. Staying informed about these updates and best practices is essential for businesses looking to succeed in today’s competitive online landscape.